Prevent draining revenue by addressing missed appointments

August 1, 2010

Dermatology practices across the country report a higher percentage of missed appointments than in the past. You may consider appointment no-shows a nuisance, but patients missing appointments may have a greater impact than you or your staff realize. Every appointment no-show is a revenue drain and a missed opportunity to contribute to your bottom line.

Key Points

You may consider appointment no-shows a nuisance, but patients missing appointments may have a greater impact than you or your staff realize. Dermatology practices maintain a high percentage of overhead from fixed costs, such as malpractice insurance, facilities, equipment and other expenses that don't vary by patient volume. Because your practice bears these fixed costs regardless of how many patients you see, every appointment no-show is both a revenue drain and a missed opportunity to contribute to your bottom line.

If that missed appointment represents a new patient who won't return, the cost of that lost future business is even more significant. An additional hit to your revenue comes from the unreimbursed time and effort that you and your staff put into readying for that patient - chart review, insurance verification, etc. Add in the staff time spent communicating with patients after they miss an appointment, and it's fair to say that every no-show costs you $250 or more - certainly more than a mere nuisance.

Analyze data

If you can't pinpoint any patterns, then at least identify the average number of missed appointments per day.

Try new strategies

Examining data regarding missed appointments - and looking for patterns - can help you determine how to effectively deploy the solution of "strategic overbooking." If you discover that Friday afternoons have a high no-show rate, add several appointment slots to that day's schedule. If self-pay patients are the most likely to no-show, instruct schedulers to double-book a couple of those slots each week. At a minimum, overbook the patients who have missed appointments in the past. Alternately, schedule them as "stand-by" only, setting the expectation that they may have a wait once they arrive.

If you can't find any pattern of no-shows but always have one or two each morning or afternoon, then add one or two appointment slots, adjusting the frequency as needed. You may experience the rare day when everyone shows up and you have to work harder or later, but that's not as painful as the potential loss of income from inaction.